Carney moves from interim to provost

Bruce Carney

There’s nothing new about UNC’s new executive vice chancellor and provost.

Chancellor Holden Thorp announced Wednesday that Bruce Carney, who serves as interim provost this year, will assume the job permanently pending approval by the Board of Trustees next week.

Thorp’s decision to bypass three external finalists selected by a search committee and hire Carney as the University’s top academic officer and No. 2 administrator was unexpected.

“Ultimately, it was probably a surprise for most of us,” said Student Body President Jasmin Jones, who served on the search committee.

Carney’s pick could indicate that one or more of the candidates turned down an offer from UNC in favor of other schools or opportunities.

The committee initially picked four finalists, but one dropped out when he was selected provost of the University of Michigan, where he was already employed.

This is the third national search for an administrator that has resulted in the hiring of an existing UNC employee and could indicate a growing preference toward administrators with extensive UNC experience, rather than outside perspective.

Thorp was hired as chancellor in 2008 when he was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. UNC paid about $100,000 to R. William Funk & Associates to conduct the search, in which they evaluated several candidates but ultimately picked Thorp.

The University then conducted a national search to replace Thorp and picked Karen Gil, then chairwoman of the psychology department.

Carney’s hire represents at least the sixth time in recent years that UNC has hired an internal candidate for a top administrative job.

The choice to pick Carney concludes an almost year-long search conducted by a 17-member committee. Funk & Associates was paid $72,800 in non-state funds, plus expenses, to facilitate the process.

“The search committee brought three excellent candidates to campus for public lectures and Q&A,” Thorp wrote in an e-mail to the University. “But ultimately, there just wasn’t a match.”

Carney, who made clear at the beginning of the year that he did not want the job permanently and never applied for it, expressed in previous interviews a desire to return to academic work. He said he reconsidered last week at the request of the chancellor.

“He came into my office Monday and asked me if I would take the job on. At some level, it was surprising. Pleasing, but surprising,” he said.

Carney said he could not comment on Thorp’s reasons for not hiring any of the finalists.

“They’re really Holden’s reasons, so it would not be appropriate to speculate,” he said. “But the bottom line is the three people who visited here were not a match for the University.”

Carney has worked at the University since 1980, serving as a professor of physics and holding multiple administrative posts, including interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

Shelton Earp, chairman of the search committee, said he was not disappointed in Thorp’s decision.

At a January meeting of the Faculty Council, Thorp said he had received some negative feedback on the lack of diversity among the applicants, all of whom were white males with a science background.

“Shelly and I talked about some of the things we did on this search and some of the things we can do on this in the future to improve the pool for jobs like this,” he said.

Carney said he views the job as a long-term commitment that has already challenged him.

“I won’t say it’s been fun but it’s been stimulating,” he said.

The position of executive vice chancellor and provost was held by Bernadette Gray-Little from 2006-09, when she left to become chancellor at the University of Kansas.

In her last year at UNC, Gray-Little earned $350,000. Carney currently earns $207,000.


Contact the University Editor at udesk@unc.edu.

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